Departamento de Psicología, Instituto de Neurociencias del Principado de Asturias (INEUROPA), Universidad de Oviedo, Plaza Feijoo s/n, 33003 Oviedo, Spain; Instituto de Neurociencias del Principado de Asturias (INEUROPA), Spain. Electronic address: [Email]
Repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation (rTMS) is a non-invasive neuromodulation technique capable of producing changes in the electrical potential of neurons. Currently, the application of rTMS in clinical practice and as a neurophysiological tool is increasing. However, the exact cellular mechanisms underlying rTMS-based therapies are not completely clear. Additionally, glial cells have been studied less. Our aim was to investigate the effect of three days of high-frequency rTMS on neuronal metabolism and neuronal activation, in addition to its effect on glial cells. For this purpose, we performed histochemistry and immunohistochemistry procedures: the histochemistry of cytochrome oxidase (COx) to assess neuronal metabolic activity, and the immunohistochemistry of c-Fos (marker of neuronal activity), GFAP (marker of astrocytic reactivity), and Iba1 (selective marker of reactive microglia). Our results showed enhanced metabolic activity after rTMS in the retrosplenial and parietal cortex and CA1 and CA3 subfields of the hippocampus. Moreover, higher c-Fos activity was found in the agranular retrosplenial cortex. Finally, we did not find changes between groups in the induction of astrocyte and microglia reactivity in any of the immunostained regions. In conclusion, we can assume that three days of high-frequency rTMS applied in healthy rats does not alter astroglia reactivity or inflammatory responses, such as microglia proliferation. Because we have shown an upregulation of neuronal metabolic activity in many limbic brain structures, in addition to higher c-Fos levels in the nearest cortical area to the rTMS, our work provides novel insight into the effectiveness and safety of rTMS as a brain modulation therapy.